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Subject: ‘Famous battles’
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Posted in America, Famous battles, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Language, War on Wednesday, 22 May 2013
This edited article about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 262 published on 21 January 1967.
Lincoln's address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, November 19, 1863
Who said “. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”?
The answer is Abraham Lincoln at the end of his Gettysburg Address.
Between 1st and 3rd July, 1863, one of the decisive battles of history took place around Gettysburg, a small Pennsylvania town. It was the climax of the American Civil War, which was fought by the North (the Union) to preserve the United States, and by the South (the Confederacy) for the right of individual states to settle their own affairs, which included slavery.
Southern armies had defeated Northern ones time and again, despite smaller numbers and lack of industrial resources. But at Gettysburg a long and bitter battle led to a Southern retreat.
On 19th November, 1863, a National Soldiers’ Cemetery was dedicated at Gettysburg; 15,000 people watched parades and ceremonies until the moment came for a distinguished statesman and fine orator, Edward Everett, to speak. His address lasted two whole hours! Then the Baltimore Glee Club sang an Ode, and finally President Lincoln rose to speak a ‘few words’ – words that will live forever.
From its famous beginning, “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”, until the even more famous final words of the quotation, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address stands as a supreme comment on freedom and democracy.
It took about two minutes to deliver, and ‘long-continued applause’ followed. Lincoln’s friends thought he had spoken well, but his political enemies said the speech was a failure! Lincoln had said: “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.” But the world has remembered.
Posted in Animals, Famous battles, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, War on Tuesday, 21 May 2013
This edited article about the Duke of Wellington originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 261 published on 14 January 1967.
The Duke of Wellington riding Copenhagen and saluting his troops after their victory at Salamanca by James E McConnell
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), was the greatest British soldier of his day. His charger, Copenhagen, was almost as famous at the time as his great master!
Wellington bought the stallion in 1812, during the Peninsula War. He was a four-year-old and took his name from the siege of Copenhagen in 1807. For the rest of the Peninsula campaign, which established Wellington as a great general, man and horse were inseparable in action.
The picture above shows them after the victory of Salamanca – rider and horse acted as a tremendous morale-booster to the troops, often swaying an action by their sudden appearance in the thick of battle.
But it was Waterloo, in 1815, which was Copenhagen’s finest hour. On 17th June he was ridden from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. without food; then, on the 18th, the day of the great battle, he was mounted at dawn and ridden for seventeen hours.
After the battle, Wellington rode him to the village of Waterloo. The Duke was worn out and saddened by the slaughter, despite the fact that he had defeated Napoleon: but his fiery horse, feeling like celebrating perhaps, lashed out with his hooves when his master dismounted, and nearly killed him! In Brussels next day, he broke loose and ran round the town.
Copenhagen, now a national hero, spent his final years on Wellington’s country estate. Few rode him with much pleasure except the Duke. “Take care of that there horse, he kicks out!” shouted some soldiers at one lady-rider.
Copenhagen died in 1836 and was buried with full military honours. Wellington told countless stories about his beloved horse until his own death.
Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Royalty, War on Tuesday, 21 May 2013
This edited article about General Wolfe originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 261 published on 14 January 1967.
Who said, “Oh! he is mad, is he? Then I wish he would bite some other of my generals”?
The answer is King George II about General James Wolfe.
In 1758, a young Colonel, James Wolfe, was given command of an expedition to capture Quebec from the French. Wolfe had already had a brilliant career and had caught the eye of William Pitt (the Elder), later Earl of Chatham.
Born in 1727, Wolfe made his way into the army by sheer ability.
Wolfe’s health was bad; he was tall, thin, and red-haired; his manners were awkward; he was hot-tempered; he led a quiet life in a dissolute age, and was regarded as an oddity. But at Dettingen, Culloden and other battles, his brilliance and bravery made him a marked man. He was a fine trainer of troops and – rare in those days – a dedicated professional soldier.
When the Seven Years’ War broke out, Pitt, in charge of affairs, found himself short of good officers. Young Wolfe distinguished himself in a disastrous expedition to France, and his part in the capture of Louisburg, in Canada, in 1758, convinced Pitt that here was the man to conquer Quebec – and, therefore, Canada – for Britain.
The following year, Wolfe captured Quebec, but died in the hour of victory, as did the French commander, Montcalm.
George II’s remark about Wolfe was made when Pitt appointed him to the Quebec expedition over many more senior officers. The Duke of Newcastle, who shared the government of Britain with Pitt, but who was best known for bribery, corruption and intrigue, was appalled to hear of Wolfe’s promotion over his own rich, untalented friends, and rushed to the King.
Quoting all the strange things he had heard about Wolfe, he said: “The man’s mad, your Majesty!”
George, an old soldier himself, who wanted some victories, then made his memorable reply.
Posted in Animals, Bravery, Famous battles, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, War on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about the Charge of the Light Brigade originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
Lord Cardigan rode his splendid chestnut charger, Ronald, in that heroic charge at Balaclava by James E McConnell
Few people have not heard of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava in the Crimean War. On that memorable day, the 25th October, 1854, 670 of Britain’s finest cavalrymen charged to their doom in the ‘Valley of Death’.
Of course, it was a blunder. A wrong order sent the Light Brigade on its tragic charge, but that did not dim its glory. Shot at from the flanks, riding into the volleying barrel-mouths of Russian cannon, not a man hesitated.
Commanding the Light Cavalry Brigade was Major-General the Earl of Cardigan, riding his splendid chestnut charger, Ronald, a horse with two ‘white stockings’. As if on a ceremonial parade, Cardigan on Ronald trotted, then galloped up the shell-riddled valley and leapt between the Russian guns. Here, with the crash of artillery in his ears, Ronald took fright for the first and only time, and bolted towards the mass of Cossack lancers waiting beyond the guns.
The noble Earl quickly recovered control, fought off three Cossacks, and proudly rode back all the way up the valley. He had suffered only a scratch, on his thigh, and Ronald was completely unhurt. Yet there were only 195 survivors of the charge, and 500 horses were killed.
After the war, Cardigan took the horse back to his family home at Deene in Northamptonshire, where Ronald lived a long and contented life. His head and tail are still preserved there.
Ronald was a soldier’s horse, and shared a soldier’s glory.
Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Politics, War on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about William Pitt the Younger originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 260 published on 7 January 1967.
William Pitt pointing to the map of France after hearing of Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz, by Angus McBride
Few young men could look forward to so brilliant a career as could William Pitt in the year 1783. He was not yet 25 – but he was Prime Minister of Great Britain. His father, too, had been a great parliamentarian and when he received the Earldom of Chatham as reward for his services, the young William exclaimed: “I am glad that I am not the eldest son. I want to speak in the House of Commons like Papa.”
Pitt was a comparatively poor man when he entered Parliament for he enjoyed an income of only £300 per year. But when, in 1782, he was offered a post in the government at a salary of £5,000 a year – he declined it. He told the House that he had no intention of accepting any post except a seat in the Cabinet. In those days the Cabinet consisted of about seven men, and many of his colleagues considered that the 23-year-old statesman was being arrogant in the extreme. But Pitt knew what he was doing: a little more than 18 months afterwards he was offered the highest position in the Cabinet.
William Pitt’s first administration lasted for 17 continuous years. During the first half of that period England enjoyed a prosperity and tranquillity she was not to know again for many years. But from 1792 onwards a change came, not only over England but over all Europe. The French Revolution was breaking up the old pattern of power and soon the Revolutionaries were turning their arms upon the neighbouring monarchies.
During the Revolutionary Wars, Pitt played the part which Winston Churchill was to play during the war against Germany. He became the symbol as well as the head of a government determined to resist even when resistance seemed hopeless. Soon the French acquired their own symbol and leader, the Corsican, Napoleon Bonaparte and with his military genius, the tide began to turn in favour of France.
In October, 1805, Napoleon defeated the Emperors of Russia and Austria, England’s allies, at the battle of Austerlitz. The French now were dominant on land even though the English controlled the sea. The news almost broke Pitt, for it was the destruction of all that for which he had worked. When the news came to him he gestured at a great map hanging on the wall of his room. “Roll up that map of Europe, it will not be wanted these 10 years.” It was an accurate prophecy. Just 10 years later the victorious Allies drew up the political boundaries of Europe at the peace of Paris. But Pitt survived the news of Austerlitz by only a year. In those last months of his life his face bore an expression of sadness.
Posted in Animals, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Royalty, War on Monday, 20 May 2013
This edited article about Napoleon originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 259 published on 31 December 1966.
Napoleon Bonaparte owned many horses during his meteoric career – ‘Intendant’, ‘Wagram’, ‘Kurden’, ‘Vizir’ and ‘Coco’, to name only a few. But his favourite charger was the handsome white or light grey African barb, ‘Marengo’.
Standing only 14 hands 1 inch in height, Marengo was considered by good judges to be a faultless animal. Napoleon obtained him after the Battle of Aboukir in Egypt in 1799. The following year, after the brilliant French victory over the Russians at Marengo, The First Consul named the barb after the battle. Marengo was with him at the later battles of Austerlitz in 1805 and Jena in 1806, and during the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812.
On that fateful day in June, 1815, when Wellington finally defeated the French at Waterloo, Napoleon was riding Marengo. After the battle, Lord Petrie obtained the horse and brought him back to England, where he sold him to Lieutenant-General Angerstein, formerly of the Grenadier Guards, who bred from him at his paddocks at New Barnes, near Ely.
In his old age, Marengo was well cared for and petted. When death finally overtook the old warrior, his skeleton was preserved at the Royal United Service Institution in Whitehall. From there it was moved in 1963 to the National Army Museum at Camberley, in Surrey, where it can be seen today.
Unfortunately it has only two hooves left – the other two were made into snuff boxes at the order of General Angerstein. He presented one to the Brigade of Guards, and its resting place became the Guard Room at St. James’s Palace. The second went to the General’s home at Weeting, in Norfolk.
From the sands of Egypt to a glass case in Surrey is a long way; but Marengo was always a great traveller.
Posted in America, Animals, Famous battles, Historical articles on Friday, 17 May 2013
This edited article about the Little Big Horn originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 257 published on 17 December 1966.
In July, 1876, Americans everywhere were busy celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United States. Suddenly the news broke that Sioux and Cheyenne Indians had wiped out an entire force under the command of General George A. Custer near the Little Big Horn river, in Montana.
Custer, a brave but vain and foolhardy officer, had led his troops into a trap – over 260 officers and men perished in less than half an hour. The greatest of the Sioux warriors, Crazy Horse, led the attack, shouting: “Today is a good day to fight, today is a good day to die!” But it was the white men who died.
Scarcely anyone or anything escaped the slaughter. Curly, a Crow Indian scout, escaped by disguising himself as a Sioux: a dog called Rusty was later found some way from the scene of the fighting: Comanche, the horse of Captain Miles Keogh, second-in-command to Custer, was found after the battle wandering about and severely wounded, the only survivor on the battlefield itself. He must somehow have escaped capture by the Indians, who ran off with most of the Americans’ horses.
For the rest of his life, Comanche was treated as a hero and looked after with pride and care. When he died, his body was stuffed and put on display in a Kansas museum.
Posted in Dance, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, War on Thursday, 16 May 2013
This edited article about the Battle of Waterloo originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 257 published on 17 December 1966.
Napoleon had returned! The news sped throughout France during the early spring of the year 1815, bringing back hope to a people suffering the bitterness of defeat.
Just a year before, the Emperor had abdicated after his disastrous defeat at Leipzig and a new king was put in his place. The Allies who had defeated him were generous enough. He was allowed to retain all his titles and a large income and was given the island of Elba off the Italian coast.
But Elba was too small a kingdom for a man who had dominated all Europe, and in February, 1815, he left. On 1st March, he landed near Cannes, in the south of France, and three weeks later he was in Paris. The people acclaimed him joyously and the famous Hundred Days had begun.
Soldiers and civilians alike expected Napoleon to hurl the foreigners out of France and re-establish the Empire, now that the puppet king had gone. The Grand Alliance which had defeated Napoleon was weakening. Only Prussia and England were prepared to overthrow him again, and their armies were separated, the Prussians being based on the Belgian town of Liege, and the English, under Wellington, on Brussels, over 100 miles away.
Moving secretly and swiftly, Napoleon marched northward from Paris and defeated part of the Prussian army. Facing him now was only Wellington’s army, half the size of his own and composed of raw troops. Wellington himself thought little of it – “the worst army ever brought together”, was his opinion – but it was all he had until the Prussians could re-form and join him. He fell back on Brussels and waited.
On the night of Thursday, 15th June, the Duke of Richmond gave a great ball in Brussels. The fashionable city was crowded with high society, apparently indifferent to the menace of the French army only a few miles away.
The thought of dancing must have been very far from Wellington’s mind, but he went, if only to keep up appearances. He seemed “preoccupied throughout the ball”, one of the young girls present confided to a Mr Creevy, a loquacious diary-writer who was in Brussels at the time.
At the height of the evening, Wellington received firm news that Napoleon was intending to give battle, but he stayed at the ball, after giving discreet orders to his staff officers who were there with him.
One by one these officers were quietly approached and a few words were exchanged. The music went on but, all over the ballroom, ladies found themselves politely escorted off the floor by partners who then bowed, apologised, and went out into the night.
At last Wellington felt that he, too, could leave, and went to his headquarters. At 2.30 in the morning, Mr Creevy, in his lodgings, noted in his diary, “The girls just returned from a ball at the Duke of Richmond’s”.
But, mingled with the sound of carriage wheels and gay laughter in the streets of Brussels, was the steady tramping of soldiers, marching out of the city into the country and down the roads that led to the little village of Waterloo.
Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 15 May 2013
This edited article about Charles Napier originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 256 published on 10 December 1966.
Battle of Corunna where Charles Napier was taken prisoner. Picture by Harry Payne
All his life Charles Napier was at odds with authority. An impetuous, courageous, self-willed man, he chafed against the slow, deliberate procedures of officialdom, preferring to make his own dashing improvisations and arguing their legality afterwards.
The world of the 19th century seemed made for such a man as Napier. The British Empire was expanding faster than the officials in London either expected or wanted and, in places far distant from the English capital there was scope for energetic men to play the part of kings.
No one doubted Napier’s courage. Both of his brothers also held high rank in the army, and he himself had taken active part in the Napoleonic wars. He was in the famous and tragic retreat to Corunna in Portugal when Sir John Moore was killed, and was captured after a gallant defence. The French sent him home ‘to his old blind mother’ after obtaining from him a promise that he would not fight again until he was exchanged for a French prisoner.
As soon as he was free to do so, Napier returned to Portugal and was wounded, but refused to go home. Later he went to Bermuda, came back to Europe just in time for the battle of Cambrai, and crowned a hectic period of his life when, in 1822, he was made governor of the Greek island of Cephalonia. Here he plunged with relish into the task of administration and made himself into a benevolent dictator. Again and again he came into conflict with his superiors in London about his methods of government but he took no notice and gave Cephalonia a period of firm but essentially just administration.
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Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Ships, War on Tuesday, 14 May 2013
This edited article about Nelson originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 255 published on 3 December 1966.
Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen
By the year 1800 Napoleon Bonaparte was at the height of his power with all Europe, it seemed, hypnotised by him. Prussia, Sweden, Denmark and Russia formed an alliance among themselves which, theoretically neutral, was in fact directed against England. The seafaring nations of Sweden and Denmark were particularly irritated by England, for the English, in their desperate struggle against Napoleon, claimed the right to board and search all neutral shipping.
The year 1801 found Horatio Nelson as second-in-command of a British fleet outside Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. He already had the brilliant victory of the battle of the Nile to his credit but now he was hampered by his commander-in-chief, Sir Hyde Parker. Parker was an older and more timorous man who clung to the idea that negotiations would solve all problems. Nelson disagreed. He had wanted to ignore Copenhagen and to take the fleet up the Baltic to attack the heart of the alliance – Prussia and Russia. But Parker over-ruled him and out of their argument they came to a compromise. Nelson would take the smaller ships of the fleet to where the Danish fleet was waiting. The water there was too shallow for the great ships-of-the-line and Parker would remain anchored with them some two or three miles off-shore.
Parker agreed and, on the night of 1st April Nelson made his preparations, working throughout the night. The battle which faced him was to be his finest exploit as a seaman. Trafalgar would later bring him undying fame but Copenhagen tested his ability as an admiral to the utmost. It was not merely a sea-battle. Throughout the engagement, the Danish ships were in contact with the city behind them and they were also supported by the great shore batteries firing directly upon the English ships. The Danish, too, were first-class seamen and knew every inch of the dangerous waters of the harbour. A line of shoals protected their ships: once the English had passed through them they could retreat only with extreme difficulty.
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